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Watch: Four-Mile Iceberg Calving

By MarEx 2018-07-09 20:06:54

New York University scientists have captured a four-mile iceberg breaking away from a glacier in eastern Greenland on video. 

The resulting iceberg, broken off from Greenland’s Helheim Glacier, would stretch from lower Manhattan up to Midtown in New York City. 

Witnessing the phenomenon, also known as calving (the breaking off of large blocks of ice from a glacier), could help create more accurate simulations to help predict and plan for climate change, say the researchers. “Global sea-level rise is both undeniable and consequential,” said David Holland, a mathematics professor at New York University. “By capturing how it unfolds, we can see, first-hand, its breath-taking significance.”

The video shows a range of different iceberg formation styles captured during the calving event which began on June 22 at 11:30 p.m. local time and took place over approximately 30 minutes (the video has condensed the time of this occurrence to approximately 90 seconds). The video depicts a tabular, or wide and flat, iceberg calve off and move away from the glacier. As it does so, thin and tall icebergs, also known as pinnacle bergs, calve off and flip over. The camera angle then shifts to show movement further down the fjord, where one tabular iceberg crashes into a second, causing the first to split into two and flip over.

In April this year, New York University received a $2.1 million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation to better understand Antarctic glaciers and the forces behind sea-level rise. The grant is part of the newly announced $25-million International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, headed by the U.K.'s Natural Environment Research Council and the National Science Foundation, which will deploy scientists to gather the data needed to understand whether the glacier’s collapse could begin in the next few decades or next few centuries.

A 2017 estimate suggested that a collapse of the entire the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet would result in a 10-foot-rise in sea level - enough to overwhelm coastal areas around the globe, including New York City. So far, the Thwaites Glacier, a part of the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet that has already drained a mass of water that is roughly the size of Great Britain or the state of Florida, has accounted for approximately four percent of global sea-level rise. “Rising sea levels are a globally important issue which cannot be tackled by one country alone,” says U.K. Science Minister, Sam Gyimah.